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England fall to late Russia equaliser

EURO 2016: England dominated the opener but come away with just a point

EURO 2016: England dominated the opener but come away with just a point

England began their EURO 2016 campaign with a 1-1 draw against Russia in Marseille on Saturday night.

Eric Dier’s thunderbolt of a free-kick deep into the second half seemed to be enough for Hodgson’s men until Russia defender Vasili Berezutski headed home only moments from full time.

Both of City’s stars in Hodgson’s squad, Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling, started the match. Hart was left as a relative spectator throughout much of the match as Russia struggled to provide ammunition for Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba. Sterling featured in his familiar advanced left-sided role and proved to be a constant menace.

Hart said: “It was a good performance but a good performance is a win in tournament football. We played some good football but fair play to Russia, they stayed in the game and got the goal.”

“We’re going to build on it, get better and win more games. There were a lot of positives.”

It was England who started the brighter side with Adam Lallana and Dele Alli both finding themselves free in the box following good work out wide from Kyle Walker and Sterling respectively.

The chances were snapped at, perhaps an indication of opening game nerves, but this was only the start of the England dominance.

Sterling’s quick feet provided yet another chance just before the 20 minute mark as he jinked around Russian right-back Igor Smolnikov before laying the ball off for Danny Rose, whose drilled cross just evaded the stretched leg of his Spurs teammate Alli.

England maintained the pressure on the Russia backline throughout the first half as both Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney tested veteran Igor Akinfeev in the Russia goal. The statistics told a one-sided story but as the half-time whistle blew the scoreboard in the Stade Velodrome remained unaltered.

The much-feared Russian revival looked to be taking place only moments into the second half as a last ditch Gary Cahill tackle was required to keep the scores level.

The second period played out as much more of a slogging match with Russia looking to feed off the scraps from Dzyuba’s knockdowns and England battling to keep on top of their opponents.

It looked like it would forever go down as ‘one of those nights’ for England in the 70th minute when Wayne Rooney ran on to the ball just inside the Russia box and placed his shot, only to be denied by a marvellous save from the long-standing CSKA Moscow and Russia number one Akinfeev.

Moments later, after Dele Alli was felled on the edge of the box, Spurs holding midfielder Eric Dier stepped up to hammer the free kick past Akinfeev to send the thousands of England fans into raptures.

A host of changes by Russia boss Leonid Slutskiy gave his team a new lease of life and he was rewarded in the final moments as Vasili Berezutski rose highest to head past a helpless Joe Hart.

England will now prepare to face Wales, who began their campaign with a 2-1 victory over Slovakia, in Lens on Thursday.

England: Hart, Walker, Smalling, Cahill, Rose, Dier, Alli, Lallana, Rooney, Sterling, Kane

Russia: Akinfeev, Smolnikov, Ignashevich, Berezutski, Schennikov, Neustadter, Golovin, Shatov, Smolov, Kokorin, Dzyuba

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